Laminate flooring can be a smart addition to many homes. It allows homeowners to save on their flooring expenses while still featuring something that is aesthetically appealing. Many types of laminate flooring are also very easy to install and that can be a big plus for some homeowners.
Still, laminate flooring does present issues from time to time. Dealing with the expansion gaps in particular can be tricky.
Expansion gaps can become too big either due to temperature and humidity or because the planks were installed incorrectly. If the issue is the former, quickly sliding the floorboards to eliminate the expansion gap may fix it. If it’s the latter, a more labor-intensive solution such as replacing the planks may be necessary.
The expansion gaps are necessary for keeping your laminate flooring in good condition. However, they can become problematic themselves. Find out how to deal with excessively big expansion gaps by reading on.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Purpose of an Expansion Gap?
- How Big Should the Expansion Gaps Be?
- How to Fix an Expansion Gap That Has Gotten Too Big
- How to Prevent the Emergence of Big Expansion Gaps
- Related Questions
What Is the Purpose of an Expansion Gap?
Before we discuss anything else, let’s first get into why expansion gaps are needed in the first place. They are needed because of the conditions in and around most homes.
We all know that things such as temperature and humidity can affect various objects inside the home. Your floorboards are not exempt from those environmental effects. Certain changes in the temperature and humidity levels can affect your laminate floor planks.
If the air is warm and humid, your laminate flooring may expand as a result. Meanwhile, a drop in humidity can cause those same planks to contract. Those changes in your laminate flooring happen all the time. Part of the reason why you don’t notice them is because of the expansion gaps.
As its name indicates, the job of the expansion gap is to provide room for the floorboards to expand. Even if they soak up a lot of moisture, they can move in place comfortably. They won’t be restricted in that way.
If you don’t leave enough of an expansion gap, the laminate flooring will suffer as a result. The flooring will be squeezed in place and it could even buckle. Ignore that and the floorboards could end up seriously damaged sooner rather than later.
Expansion gaps are essential for maintaining your laminate flooring. Without them, you’re just risking damage to an important part of your home.
How Big Should the Expansion Gaps Be?
Now that we know why expansion gaps are important, let’s turn our attention to how big they should be. Unsurprisingly, the exact size of the gaps need to be will vary depending on the size of the floor to be covered.
Generally speaking, the gaps need to be bigger as the space gets larger. The good news here is that some laminate flooring manufacturers will indicate how big the gaps should be. Take heed of their instructions during installation and things should turn out fine.
Things get trickier if the manufacturers have not offered a suggestion. At a minimum though, the gaps should be at least a quarter of an inch big. You can work from there depending on the size of your interior living space.
How to Fix an Expansion Gap That Has Gotten Too Big
There are different ways to remedy the problem presented by an excessively large expansion gap. Some of them are pretty easy to follow while others require a good amount of work. Let’s go over the different methods of fixing the expansion gaps below.
Slide the Floorboards
The first method of fixing a big expansion gap is very simple. All it entails is actually moving the floorboards
Put on some shoes with some thermoplastic rubber soles and then step on the plank you want to move. Plant your foot firmly on the plank then start sliding it into position. The thermoplastic rubber sole will grab onto the floorboard firmly and allow you to move it.
You can also try wearing some gloves and sliding the floorboards into the right spots by hand. The gloves should improve your grip and make moving the floorboards easier.
Use a Pull Bar
The pull bar is a distinctive-looking metal tool that has two bent ends. It is a special tool that can help out if you need to remove big gaps along your laminate flooring.
One of those ends is meant to cling to the edge of the floorboard. The other end sticks out so you can hit it with a hammer. By hitting the end that’s sticking out, you’re pulling the bar in and moving the floorboard into the desired spot.
Pull bars are great tools to have on hand for installing laminate flooring. They also work well for the purposes of removing overly large expansion gaps.
Fill in the Expansion Gaps with Wood Glue
Wood glue is another item that you can use to eliminate unsightly expansion gaps. You’re basically going to use the glue as a kind of filler in this scenario.
The tough part about using glue is that you have to be very precise. Be careful to limit the glue application only to the spots that need to be filled. Wood glue also comes in different colors. That means you can probably find a wood glue variant that will blend with your laminate flooring after it dries.
Remove and Replace the Planks
The solutions mentioned above will work for expansion gaps that are just a bit bigger than what they need to be. For bigger gaps, those solutions will not suffice. You will have to do something more drastic.
Removing and reinstalling the floorboards may be necessary if the gaps are too big. After removing the floorboards, check if they have sustained significant damage. Replacing the planks that have been badly damaged is a must.
How to Prevent the Emergence of Big Expansion Gaps
Preventing the emergence of big expansion gaps is always preferable to fixing them after they’ve already shown up. In this section, we’ll discuss the different ways you can prevent large expansion gaps from appearing all over your laminate flooring.
Install Underlayment over the Subfloor
The condition of your home’s subfloor could be the reason why the planks move in such exaggerated ways. Your subfloor may feature some irregularities or it could be pooling moisture and transferring it directly to the planks.
You need to keep the subfloor from causing problems. It’s possible to do that with the help of underlayment. Install the underlayment over your subfloor and effectively even out the surface. Underlayment is also pretty easy to install so it should be manageable even for inexperienced DIYers.
Acclimate Your Laminate Flooring
Acclimation is crucial if you want to install the laminate flooring properly. Failing to acclimate the planks could lead to uneven installation. The planks may not be completely even and they may not cover your subfloor properly as well.
There’s also no reason why you shouldn’t acclimate your new flooring. All you really need to is to wait for the planks to become ready. Once 48 hours have passed, you can go ahead and install those planks.
Take Better Control of Humidity Levels inside Your Home
Since moisture is often the reason why the floorboards expand, you can prevent the emergence of big gaps by regulating humidity. Using air conditioners and dehumidifiers will regulate humidity levels inside your home. Remember to clean them out regularly as well so they continue to work as intended.
Exhaust fans will also help regulate moisture inside your home. Fixing leaks whenever they pop up will similarly prevent the accumulation of moisture.
Buy High-Quality Laminate Flooring
You can do everything right and still encounter issues with your laminate flooring if you used substandard planks. Some planks are poorly built and that makes proper installation way more difficult than it needs to be.
Be mindful about where you get the flooring planks from. Your choice of manufacturer could make a huge difference when it comes to the long-term condition of your laminate flooring.
Do You Need to Leave Expansion Gaps around Other Parts of Your Home?
Yes, you need to do more than just leave expansion gaps along your laminate flooring. After all, moisture can affect more than just the floor planks. Other wooden fixtures inside your home should be given space as well. It’s also a good idea to leave space along molding because those elements of your home can still expand and contract.
Depending on how your plumbing system is designed, leaving gaps for pipes may also be required too. Pipes routinely expand and contract with the changing weather so be sure to give them some space.
Can You Use Caulk to Fill Expansion Gaps?
We recommend using wood glue for filling in expansion gaps, but caulk can work in a pinch. The problem with caulk is that it’s not quite as durable. It may only work as a very temporary patch for your laminate flooring.
Blending the appearance of the caulk in with your flooring can also be tough. It’s better to use wood glue because it meshes better with the laminate flooring from an aesthetic standpoint.